If our greatest goal as parents and teachers is to give our children the skills to insure their success in their adult lives, surely teaching them to communicate must be at the top of the list.
When they are just little babies we begin by talking to them and teaching them simple words they can use to tell you what they need. We start with sign language so we can communicate earlier than oral language is possible. Communication is the solution to frustration, even in the young child.
As the child begins to develop language we take the next step of requiring them to say the word they need to make us understand their need. This is where the choices, as their language teacher, begin to happen. If they are frustrated we can make a number of choices. First, we can identify the problem and ask, “Are you frustrated? Do you need help? Say help please”. If they respond we can give them some help and then let them finish solving their problem on their own. Secondly, we can jump up and solve their problem based on their level of frustration and our goal of just wanting “to solve”. And finally wanting a quick solution in a public place we abandon all of our methods and just give in.
The first solution will be one of the first steps in developing the child’s ability to solve the immediate frustration by asking for help. This will empower the child in the long run and build their confidence. Not fun while it’s happening, but highly successful in the building of the child’s ability to communicate and ask for help. The second choice teaches the child that by whining or crying, you will solve the problem. Their frustration is solved by someone else. The more that you respond in this way, the more often that your child will begin to believe that they really can’t do it for themselves. The third solution solves the immediate problem, but can be confusing for the child. While the first choice might be temporarily uncomfortable for the parent, the results are long lasting and a great first stepping stone toward independence and the ability to communicate.
It is so exciting to watch children gain confidence and acquire the ability to cope and communicate. These are the children that will stick with a task until it is completed. They will struggle with the confidence that they will succeed. They know that they can ask for help, but still be able to conquer the frustration by themselves. What a confidence builder.
As these simple communication steps are established with your Toddler, they lay the groundwork with your preschooler, adolescent, and teenager. If they know that inappropriate behavior won’t work, they will accept the steps you establish as they grow older.
We want to encourage our children through their frustrations by communicating with them. We want them to know that by asking for help they can work through their problem. Solving all their frustrations communicates to them that you don’t have confidence in their ability to solve their problem. If they won’t communicate with their words, just walk away, give them time to work it out and come back when they are ready to talk. The amount of growth and confidence building that happens in this time alone is huge. When you return, the child uses their words, receives some help and accomplishes the task. Through this process they learn what behaviors you will accept. They will learn to believe in and rely on themselves. And finally they will begin to use communication as their first choice to solve a problem.